The delicious cover of the book – the front sight of a hit Lancaster above one of the German dams, with the engine on fire – did smile to me, but i did let the book lie for a while. I thought it was another one of those impermeable books with the developments of the Lancaster out of the Manchester and then the evolution of Mark I to Mark ‘so many’, with all kinds of technical explanations. A pre-judgment which served me so wrong!
Bowman lets in his book the boys (now 90 years and older) do the word, who have flown the Lancaster and survived it. You do fly along with the crew for a raid on Berlin or one of the other cities, that were bombed at night by the English and by day by the Americans. You can almost smell the typical sent of the cockpit, a mixture of burned oil and leather. You do drag yourself in your Irving flight jacket, hang your May-West loose over your shoulders and step into your padded flying boots into the plane. You do set yourself somewhere in the turret behind the 50 machine guns you handle or you crawl across the main-spar towards the cockpit to witness a nightly bomb flight. The four Rolls Royce Merlins are coming, smoke spitting, a live and after all the checks, a green Aldis light gives the take-off clearing. A ‘tour’ exists of 30 flights and a lot of crews do not even make half of that. Chairs in the mess stay empty when returning crew are being treated to a real English breakfast with bacon and eggs. There are various enemies: FLAK, night jets, but also the weather (ice forming) and the technique. When certain instruments do not work and cause a danger for the crew, one returns immediately to base, after first having dropped off the bombs in the North Sea. ‘Boomerangs’ the boys call this. Some crew members are so young that their average age does not come above 22.
A lot of crewmembers have their say as well, also those that had to jump because their plane could not be hold any longer. There are miraculous stories of boys being hurled out of planes, who wake up in a hospital, and also goose-bump giving escape stories. Even clairvoyant media is used, that in the end gives, awfully exact, horrible predictions. Wine enthusiasts know the phenomenon ‘cycle round wine’, this book is for the aviation enthusiasts a ‘cycle round book’. 256 pages full of adventurous aviation experiences. The collecting of all the data from not only the British crew members, but also the Yanks, Aussies and Kiwis, will have taken some time. Even the German newspaper is set in the light by Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, pilot of a night-jet, an ace that in the end counts 121 successes.
The last chapter ends with the coming of the German jets, the Me262. Lieutenant Herbert Altner reports about the fast jets that at the end of the war are being deployed against the allied bombers. A highly recommended book!